Under General Medical Council code of practice, which all UK doctors must observe, the doctors must provide information to patients who request abortions or contraceptives.
The ethics and code of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the Vatican, says that a Catholic hospital cannot refer people for abortions - they can't say you can't have it here but there's a place just round the corner.
With these codes as a base a Catholic Hospital has been ticked off by the leader of the church in England and Wales for referring patients for abortions and contraceptives. The Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O' Connor has asked the in north London to tighten up its code of ethics. The cardinal while acknowledging the tensions and conflicts between Catholic teaching and contemporary medical practice's but stressed "a hospital which is Catholic in name and ethos must invest in its ethical as well as in its clinical governance."
The Hospital of St. John and St. Elizabeth was founded by Spanish-born Cardinal Nicholas Wiseman in 1856 in Great Ormond Street, often known simply as John and Lizzie's, is popular with celebrity mothers like model Kate Moss, actress Cate Blanchett and Paul McCartney's wife Heather who have all had babies there. It is the third largest independent hospital in Britain.
The hospital states in its defense that no abortions are undertaken or contraceptives prescribed on the premises. But it argues its doctors are obliged to refer people elsewhere for advice. As all doctors in UK have to follow rules of practice set up by the General Medical Council, where in the doctors must provide information to patients who request abortions or contraceptives. Hence the patients will be referred to external services for advice and counseling.
In his letter to the hospital's chairman, the cardinal said "differences of opinion" had emerged about how the code of ethics applied to areas such as referrals for direct abortion and contraception, particularly for the morning after pill. And that the hospital must clearly let its patients both Christians and non-Christians of what treatments and advice they can avail at the hospital with. The hospital though insists that it's only following the code laid down by the regulatory body of GMC.
A spokesman from the office off the Archbishop of Westminster said the hospitals own code of ethics needed to be set out in a clearer way so that even doctors who were not Catholic knew what their obligations were at the institution.
Accepting the reviews the hospital's chairman, said that they would the Cardinal's recommendation that they review their code of ethics. Further stating that any revision of the code will take into account the Cardinal's views in addition to the hospital's existing legal, medical and charitable obligations. Stating that duty of care to patients remains first, and during the review process the doctors will continue to operate within the existing code of ethics.
The General Medical Council spokeswoman meanwhile said that if doctors felt unable to offer a certain kind of treatment because of their beliefs they were obliged to inform the patient of this and inform them of their right to see another doctor.